Nigeria adds the cost of missing the World Cup

In the first moments of the torment in March after Nigeria dropped out of this year’s World Cup qualifier, the most immediate thoughts of Nigerian Football Association president Amaju Pinnick were the frustration felt by her 200 million compatriots in Africa’s most populous country. nationality.

All he had to do was look at the scenes at the Mosi Abiola National Stadium in Abuja, Nigeria, to see what it meant. Thousands of angry supporters had poured the square after the finish line to pour out their anger, tapping billboards, chasing players from the field and colliding with security personnel. “My first thought,” Pinnick said, “was to resign immediately.”

But his mind quickly moved elsewhere. In the first days after Nigeria dropped out of the home and home game against Ghana, Pinnick said he would wake up in the middle of the night thinking that another group was being stinged by the team’s failure.

“Oh, what we’ve done to Nike,” he said.

For any country that is used to participating in the World Cup, the consequences of being excluded from the tournament will be significant. The United States Football Association stumbled upon just such a football disaster in 2017, and Italy has now done so for two consecutive World Cup cycles.

For Nigeria, at the forefront of African football, which failed to qualify for the World Cup until 1994, the emotional and financial cost of relegation can best be described as the failure of a single transaction: a carefully calibrated plan, millions of dollars worth of invaluable advertising related to Nike with the release of the shirt of the new national team.

Nigeria’s 2018 World Championship sweater had been a breakthrough star, creating the frenzy and rumor that is expected of more than one game star player than the arrival of some clothing. Brightly colored and with a design that sets it apart from the calmer and more conservative offerings of most other Russian tournament teams, the Nigerian shirt became mandatory this summer and sold out almost immediately.

Nike received at least three million orders for the $ 90 shirt before it went on sale. The lines were set up in the company’s flagship stores in London and other cities on the day it was issued. When it was finally made available online, it sold out in three minutes.

Four years later, Nike and Nigeria – whose federal officials have tried to take full advantage of their brand through a relationship with the company – hoped to create a new design this summer.

“Nike has been very religious about us,” Pinnick said. “I feel very, very bad – I’m going to cry when you mention Nike. They got to bring out the best shirt in the tournament.

The World Cup is a big selling point for Nike, as it brings together the tournament’s most prominent teams, including the current champion France, but also the United States, England and Brazil, which have won more titles than any other country.

Designing and making MM shirts is not a short process either; it usually takes about two years for the products to reach the stores. Pinnick’s reaction was therefore understandable: Nigeria’s failure to qualify means a colossal loss of what the football association could have expected from its share of sales, he said.

Pinnick estimated that up to five million shirts could be sold after qualifying, although it is unclear how many shirts Nike intended to produce; the company rejected several requests for comments on this article.

Pinnick suggested that under a contract with Nike, Nigeria was entitled to a royalty of about 8 percent on each sale. It would also have received another $ 1 million in bonuses from the company for hosting the World Championships. These payouts, as well as FIFA’s additional eight-day payday just for playing in the tournament, would likely have doubled the Nigeria Federation’s $ 20 million in annual revenue – less than a tenth of that of the largest country. football associations in South America and Europe.

The federation’s vice president, Shehu Dikko, said a significant portion of the money earned through qualifications would be allocated to things like player bonuses, games and training camps before the tournament. (The team is currently in North America: he lost to Mexico in Texas on Saturday and had to play for the Red Bull Arena in Ecuador, New Jersey, on Thursday night.) “It’s a huge financial blow for us,” he said. and we must recover. “

However, there is another element to Nigeria’s failure that is much more difficult to measure. Over the decades, Nigeria’s men’s soccer team, especially in big tournaments, has become more divided than any other for a population divided by social, ethnic and religious differences.

“Football is life in Nigeria – it’s more than anyone can explain,” Dikko said. “You have to know it. There are over 500 tribes in Nigeria, so many traditions, but football is the only activity that breaks through all of our failures. Once football is played, everyone is Nigerian. Nobody cares who you are, what you do or what You speak, so football is more than just a game for us, it is what unites this country.

However, this interest and passion also means a stronger focus on the results of the federation.

During Pinnick’s role in 2014, the longest-serving football president in Nigeria’s history and a member of FIFA’s board of directors, Nigeria’s records have been mixed. Although he praises for modernizing the federation and attracting new sponsors, his tenure has not won significant titles. The loss of the eighth final in the last edition of the African Cup of Nations – but before the elimination of the World Cup – was the worst performance since 1984. It came in third place in the previous and two consecutive races. catastrophic qualification campaigns in which Nigeria was excluded from the competition in 2015 and 2017.

Despite his initial intention to resign in March, Pinnick now says he will continue until the end of his term later this year. Not everyone supports the decision.

A few days after leaving the World Cup, when Pinnick was at his lowest point, dozens of protesters holding posters gathered at the Nigerian headquarters in Abuja to demand his removal. Pinnick said the protest was not what it seemed; he claimed that the crowd had been gathered – and paid – by opponents who had tried to thwart his efforts from the day he first took office.

“They’re professional poster carriers – you hire them, you hire them,” Pinnick said of the group, who called for his removal. “If you ask a man why they carry posters, they say they don’t know. They rent them for as low as 10 cents, 20 cents. People are hungry. “

A few days later there was another demonstration, more posters. This time the messages were different. They called on Pinnick to stay.

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